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Oklahoma State Basketball: Mike Holder Must Be Assertive in Coaching Search

Mike Holder has an incredibly important decision to make, but he can’t afford to be conservative.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Michigan vs Oklahoma State Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After the earth-shattering news of Brad Underwood’s departure from Oklahoma State, Mike Holder finds himself in a familiar position.

Just over a year ago, Holder made the decision to end an 8-year-long marriage with Travis Ford in favor of Brad Underwood. When he made that hire, many considered Holder to be hiring for his job. After the debacle that was Ford’s 10-year, $30-million-plus contract, the Oklahoma State faithful and beyond grew skeptical of Holder’s ability to properly negotiate.

That same notion became a popular thought on Saturday when news broke of Underwood’s decision to bolt for Champaign faster than he could clean the knife. But the reality is this: Holder had his guy, and he offered him fairly in monetary terms. I don’t blame him for not giving a fourth-year head coach three million dollars a year. Do that, and you piss off the man with the mullet.

That’s far more dangerous, in my opinion.

Brad Underwood was the most important hire of Holder’s career ... for 362 days.

Undoubtedly, the next move that Holder makes will be dissected even more than the previous one, when he hired Underwood. He’s got to make the right move. Who determines what the correct move is?

This may shock you: it’s none of us.

No matter who you or I endorse for the head coaching job, the reality is this hire will greatly impact Holder’s legacy; even more so than when he hired Underwood just under a year ago.

The hire he makes must bring back the warm and fuzzies that Underwood had so quickly restored, only to dash them in the blink of an eye. It’s got to be someone who can excite the fans. It begs a question, though. Who can Oklahoma State realistically get?

Unfortunately for Holder, it’s going to be nearly impossible to finagle Gregg Marshall or Buzz Williams to Stillwater. There are limits to what Holder can do here, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to settle. He’s got three million extra dollars to work with, considering Underwood’s non-conference buyout. Money probably isn’t a huge issue.

That being said, Mike Holder is in no place to be conservative in this hiring process. This has to be his calling card.

Even though a lot of us want to, you don’t have to hang your head and feel sorry for yourself. You pick yourself up by your bootstraps and realize that Oklahoma State is still a great place to coach college basketball. You get someone who wants to be here. Someone who doesn’t just say all the right things, but actually means what he says. Someone who knows the culture and the game.

Or you could accept defeat and act like Oklahoma State is an average job. It’s not an elite job (yet), but it’s a damn good one. You could aim low and act like you’ve got a sure thing, even though it’s not really that sure. That attitude is counter-intuitive to the nature of the people of Stillwater, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a whole lot of it on social media over the last day and a half.

Right now, Holder has to find the balance between loyalty to the fans and his basketball program. There’s a fine line that he must walk. Like last season, there will be a large faction of those who want Doug Gottlieb back on the sidelines. Doug is the people’s choice. That roar is growing louder, too. But also like last season, there are those who have the same hesitations about him that they did a year ago. Those shortcomings haven’t gone away.

No matter what, there will be those who disagree with the hire. But this is now Holder’s chance to reconcile with a fanbase whose frustration has shifted toward Underwood. He’s got an opportunity to get on the side of the people and has to take advantage of it.

Holder and the Oklahoma State administration have to hit a home run. This hire must resonate with the fans, administration, players and recruits. It has to be his best yet. Even better than Brad Underwood.